Meeting new Green cousins

Last Saturday we met some cousins on the Green side of the family that we had not met before when we met Rupert and Sarah McKerron for coffee. Rupert is Val’s fourth cousin on the Green side of the family, and though we had been in correspondence with people from that side of the family, it was good to meet some face to face.

Val Hayes with Rupert & Sarah McKerron 14 May 2016

Val Hayes with Rupert & Sarah McKerron 14 May 2016

Rupert and Sarah have a bush cottage that they named after the Green brothers, and we met to swap stories about them.

The Green family came to the Eastern Cape about 1846. The paterfamilias, William Goodall Green, who was born in Quebec in 1790, was in the Commissariat Department of the British Army based in Newfoundland, when he was transferred to the Cape Colony, probably as part of a boosting of British military strength because of the War of the Axe (1846-1850). William Green’s wife Margaret had died a couple of years earlier, and some of their 15 children died young, but quite a number of them seem to have come to southern Africa at that time.

Henry Green, the eldest, and Rupert’s ancestor, had followed his father into the commissariat department, and accompanied a British force led by Major Harold Warden to what was then called Trans-Orangia (now the Free State province). After establishing British authority and defeating the short-lived Republic of Winburg at the Battle of Boomplaats Warden was appointed British Resident of what became the Orange River Sovereignty, and he established a capital on the farm Bloemfontein. Henry Green succeeded Warden as British Resident in 1852, but his post lapsed in 1854 when the Sovereignty was abandoned and the republic of the Oranje-Vrijstaat was established.

Another of the Green brothers, Edward, joined the Cape Mounted Rifles, took part in the War of the Axe, and was wounded in the thigh. He married Emily Ogilvie of Grahamstown, and after having two children they left, Emily to stay with family in England, and Edward to India, and later to China, where he took part in the Opium Wars, the aim of which was to persuade the Chinese government to lift its embargo in the importation of drugs. Edward Green never returned either to the Cape Colony or Canada, but eventually settled in New Zealand.

Three other brothers, Charles, Fred and Arthur, went to Bloemfontein. Arthur, the youngest, got a job in his brother Henry’s office, while Charles and Fred, aged 25 and 21 respectively, set out to the north-west on a hunting expedition. In those days elephant hunting and the sale of ivory must have seemed like an easy way for young men to earn a living. Charles and Fred Green returned to Bloemfontein as their base after each hunting season, and spent their holidays playing billiards and cards with the soldiers, and taking them on hunting trips on nearby farms. Fred (Val’s great great grandfather) seems to have planned to settle there, because he bought a plot of land in Bloemfontein.

Charles and Fred were friends with the Bakwena chief Setshele (his name is sometimes spelt Sechele), and left cattle in his care when they went west up the Boteti (or Botletle) River to Lake Ngami, where tsetse flies were bad for cattle (follow the links to read more about their journeys). On their return they found that their cattle had been looted by Boer raiders from the Transvaal, who had also wrecked David Livingstone’s house in Kolobeng, and abducted hundreds of women and children as slaves.

Charles and Fred took Setchele with them to lay his complaints before the British government, in the person of their brother Henry, but he was told by his superior, the Governor of the Cape Colony, that since the signing of the Sand River Convention in 1852 the British government took no official interest in events north of the Vaal River. Charles Green may have accompanied Setshele back home, and then possibly went to Australia, perhaps with his sister Agnes, whose first child, Caroline Wilson, was born in Sydney in 1854.

After reconnoitering trade routes to east and west, Fred Green seems to have decided that the western route was safer, and made his base in Damaraland, later called Hereroland, and now part of Namibia, and spent the rest of his life there. Charles joined him a couple of years later, but was drowned in the Okavango River when his boat was upset by a hippo in the early 1860s. I don’t think Fred ever saw any of his siblings again.

Fred married three times. We know nothing of his first wife, other than that her name was Dixon and they had no children. The second was Sarah uaKandendu Kaipukire, a Herero princess. They had a daughter, but parted when the Hereros did not want her to accompany him to the Cape Colony. One of her descendants, Mburumba Kerina, is credited with the invention of the name Namibia.The third wife was Catherine Agnes Anne Stewardson, They had seven children, of whom four died young. Of the surviving ones, Fred Vincent Green was Val;s great grandfather.

Henry disappeared for 6 years, married his cousin Margaret Aitchison in England, and returned to the Cape Colony in 1860 as Civil Commissioner and Magistrate of Colesberg. His wife and two children died soon after their arrival, but she still lives on as the family ghost. He married again to Countess Ida Von Lilienstein, and had several children by her, and many of the Green descendants in southern Africa come from them. When diamonds were discovered near Kimberley Henry Green went with a syndicate to work them, became a member of the legislative assemby for Griqualand West, and then retired to his farm near Barkly West, where he died in 1884.

Arthur Green became a photographer, and achieved some fame as a pioneer in that field. His daughter Agnes married twice and had children, some of whom were born in Canada, but eventually returned to South Africa. We met one of his descendnats some years ago, Doreen Armstrong of Pinetown, who was also interested in the family history.

Agnes Green, who went to Australia, married four times (twice to the same man). Her first husband was William Wilson, who drowned in the Tuross River in New South Wales. She next married Alfred Dawson Francis, who may have caused a stir in Durban  as Alfred Francis Dawson. He committed suicide, and she then married William McLean Thwaites, once bigamously in Sydney, and the second time after the birth of their four children, in Adelaide. Though she never returned to South Africa, some of the grandchildren of each of her marriages did. Caroline Wilson, the eldest daughter, went to New Zealand to stay with her uncle Edward Lister Green. She married  Roy Ashley Warre Brathwaite, and one of their children, Frank Brathwaite, came to South Africa and made a name for himself as a racing tipster. Arthur Walpole Francis, a son of her second marriage, lived at Langlaagte, near Johannesburg, and made contact with several of Fred Green’s family, who had moved to the Transvaal after his death. One of his daughters married a coffee planter from Tanganyika, and was caught in Germany diring the first and second world wars. One of her sons was killed in the German army during the invasion of Poland in 1939. Her letters to her sister in Sydney provide a fascinating insight into the history of that side of the family.

Another member of the Francis side of the family was Peter Bridges, whom we met in Johannesburg, and whose granddaughter Jenny was at the same school as our daughter Bridget for a while. Peter discovered that on his mother’s side he was descended from another of the Green siblings, Caroline, who married Robert Leslie Cowan and died of cholera in Shanghai in 1863.

So the Green brothers had interesting lives, and seem to have spread the family to many different parts of the world, with quite a number from several branches still living in South Africa and Namibia.

Stewardson family breakthrough

In the forty years we have been researching our family history, the Stewardson side of the family has been one of the longest-standing “brick walls”, as family historians like to say, referring to the inability to get further back than a particular ancestor. In the case of the Stewardsons, the brick wall is more like a dam wall, because once it has broken, down comes the flood.

We discovered quite early on that Val’s great great grandmother was Kate Stewardson, who was born at Rooibank near Walvis Bay (now part of Namibia) in about 1847-48. Her parents were mentioned in several books, but for 30 years we were unable to discover their first names. The author of one book even made up names for them, Ian and Norah, which somehow carlessly slipped into some historical records published by the Namibian Archives. Eventually, after 30 years, we found, in a Methodist baptism record in Cape Town, that they were Francis and Frances, or Frank and Fanny, and also that Frances’s maiden name was Morris. We have described the story of that search more fully here.

Thanks largely to FamilySearch, the online genealogical research tool of the Mormon Church, we were able to learn more about the origins of the Morris family. FamilySearch have placed online indexes, and sometimes original copies of the registers kept by other denominations, and by this means we were able to trace the Morris family back to the village of Donisthorpe, on the border of Leicestershire and Derbyshire in England.

Donisthorpe village, home of the Morris family, on the border of Leicestershire and Derbyshire in England

Donisthorpe village, home of the Morris family, on the border of Leicestershire and Derbyshire in England

At the time there was no church in Donisthorpe, so the Morris children were baptised in the nearby village of Over Seal in Leicestershire.

Family tradition, which was also found in published sources, was that the Stewardsons originally came from Scotland, and we had assumed that Frank Stewardson had come to the Cape Colony and met Frances Morris there, and married her before moving on to Damaraland. But no amount of searching Cape marriage records, in the originals in the Cape Archives, on microfilm in the LDS (Mormon) family history centre in Johannesburg, or later online when some of the records became available on the web, revealed this marriage.

Another useful online resource that became available was FreeBMD, which is the birth, marriage and death record indexes for England and Wales. The handwritten, typewritten and printed indexes have been transcribed by volunteers, and are almost complete for the 19th century. And there we eventually found the marriage record of Francis Stewardson and Frances Morris. We received the marriage certificate on 2 May 2015, and that broke the dam wall.

They were married in Donisthorpe on 8 Oct 1838, and the entry was No 1, so theirs was the first marriage after civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in England in 1837. His father was Samuel Stewardson, and his occupation was listed as Servant. Her father was Thomas Morris, and his occupation was listed as Butcher. The residence of both parties was given as Donisthorpe. The witnesses were Thomas Proudman and Elizabeth Morris.

View over the Amber Vaslley from Coxbench, where members of the Stewardson family lived in the 18th century.

View over the Amber Vaslley from Coxbench, where members of the Stewardson family lived in the 18th century.

Thanks to the availability of online records, mainly through FamilySearch, we were able to follow up the father’s name, and it appears that the Stewardson family went back a few generations in Derbyshire, mainly in the village of Coxbench, in an area called Amber Valley.

Not only was Frank Stewardson’s father named Samuel, but so were his grandfather and great grandfather. He also had a brother Samuel and a couple of cousins named Samuel as well. Unlike the Morris family, where several members came to the Cape Colony, Frank seems to have been the only Stewardson to have done so.

One family tradition/rumour/legend did prove almost true,  however. About 30 years ago a cousin, Bernard Lindholm Carlsson, said that his brother, Ernest Gay Carlsson, had done some research into the family history and maintained that the correct spelling of the name was Stuartson. Some of the entries in the parish registers at Horsley (near Coxbench) spell the name as Stuardson, but that appears to be the idiosyncrasy of a particular clergyman, and  in all other cases the Stewardson spelling was used. We were never able to make contact with Ernest Gay Carlsson to see what he had discovered, though we tried several times to do so.

Anyway, after 40 years the Stewardson drought has truly broken, and we are now busy trying to sort out all the Stewardson relations and seeing where they fit into the family tree. And, thanks to the availability of online records, one discovery leads to another, and what would have taken three years to discover 30 years ago takes about three days now.

 

To the river’s end

To the River's EndTo the River’s End by Lawrence G. Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first read this book when I was at school, some 60 or so years ago. I found it in the school library, and thought it was OK. My main memory of that reading was that it was there that I first learnt about the Augrabies Falls on the Orange River. I had never heard of the Augrabies Falls before, which, according to the book, were higher and had a greater volume of water than the Victoria Falls and the Niagara Falls, which weveryone in the school knew about. But no one else at the school had heard of the Aughrabies Falls either.

I thought that one day I would like to visit the Aughrabies Falls, and about 25 years ago I did. They were impressive. I still haven’t visited the Victoria Falls or the Niagara Falls, and probably never will, but with the possibility that we may pay a second visit to the Aughrabies Falls later this year, I took this book out of the City of Tshwane municipal library and read it again.

The second reading was very different from the first. The first reader was a schoolboy who had never been to any of the places described, and could only imagine what they were like. I had to picture it like the land of Mordor in a work of fiction (which I only read abouot 10 years later, in 1966).

On the second reading I had visited several of the places described in the book, and so the second reading was a reminder of places I have known. The second reading was also after we had embarked on the study of family history, and Lawrence G. Green mentions relatives of mine or my wife’s in this and several others of his books. His anecdotes are not always accurate, but they are nevertheless informative and entertaining.

How does one characterise Lawrence G. Green‘s books? He is a journalist, travel writer, amateur historian, gossip and raconteur. He has a journalist’s nose for the news, and so in his travels he makes notes of stories, not just current news, but old news, news of years ago, stories that are, as he puts it in the title of one of his books, Almost forgotten never told.

I come to this book now with a more critical eye. Not only have I researched the family history (and so know that some of the details of his stories about our relatives are inaccurate), but I’ve also studied general history and historiography, and so am on my guard for evidence of racism or colonialist propaganda, which are evident in many books written by white people about history and travel in southern Africa in the first half o0f the 20th century. There is some, but less than I expected. In describing the wars of the German colonial rulers of Namibia with the Bondelswarts tribe, he notes several instances of the Bondelswarts chivalrous behaviour, trying to avoid civilian casualties, leaving a note of apology on the body of a military medical officer they had shot by mistake, as they had not noticed his medical badgges until it was too late, and saying they would not shoot unarmed doctors. The Germans, representatives of Western “civilization”, on the other hand, were carrying out wars of extermination in that period (1904-1908).

Green begins his story a bit away from the river, at Union’s End, the remote boundary marker where the borders of Botswana, Namibia and South Africa meet, now part of the Transfrontier Kalahari Park. I haven’t been to Union’s End, but I have travelled through the Kalahari Gemsbook National Park from Twee Rivieren to Mata Mata, up the dry and dusty valley of the Auob River, on my first visit to Namibia in 1969.

I did not know, having forgotten from the first reading, that there was a settlement of Basters there, different from those of Rehoboth, who once had a shortlived Republic of Mier.

Of course there is the description of the Aughrabies Falls, though when Green visited in the 1930s he had to swim streams to get to where he could see the falls, whereas when we went there in 1991 there were bridges.

Aughrabies Falls, 8 April 1991

Aughrabies Falls, 8 April 1991

He describes the history of Onseepkans, where we crossed into Namibia in 1991, a year after it became independent, when the border officials were still housed in prefabs and tents. I took the name to indicate that some travellers who had crossed the hot and dry plains of Bushmanland, south of the river (which Green also describes) had taken the opportunity to wash their hair in the river, and washed the soap out too. But apparently the name is derived from a Hottentot word, meaning the drinking place for cattle.

The Orange River at Onseepkans, halfway between South Africa and Namibia. Namibia on the left, South Africa on the right. 8 April 1991

The Orange River at Onseepkans, halfway between South Africa and Namibia. Namibia on the left, South Africa on the right. 8 April 1991

Green tells some of the history of the mission station at Pella, which we have not visited, but may visit later this year, where Roman Catholic missionaries, with no knowledge of building at all, constructed a large cathedral.

Green also describes Goodhouse, where a relative, Abraham Morris, seems to have worked at one time, probably in the early 1920s. Green gives more information about Abraham Morris in another book, So few are free, and you can read more about the Morris family here. If we travel this way again in August, we hope to see more of the places where these families passed on their overland journeys between Damaraland and Cape Town, and also to do some more research on them in the Cape Archives.

So the second read was much more interesting than the first, partly because I have been to some of the places mention in the book, and we hope to see some of those he mentions that we have never seen before.

So I recommend this book to anyone who has travelled in the Northern Cape or southern Namibia, or who is planning to. Others might find it interesting too, as I did when I read it the first time.

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So few are free

So few are freeSo few are free by Lawrence George Green

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lawrence G. Green‘s books follow a similar pattern, and there is a certain amount of repetition. He tells the same story in more than one book, sometimes with more or less detail.

This one deals with the west coast of southern Africa, from the Cape to the Kunene, with anecdotes of out of the way places, and characters who played a minot role in history. As a journalist he collected notes on all sorts of topics, and every now and then he would work them up to a story with a connecting theme, and in this one the connecting theme is the places on the “Diamond Road” and the Skeleton Coast.

As I’ve already noted about his Thunder on the Blaauwberg not all of his tales are accurate. He is a raconteur, not a historian.

We have several of his books on our shelves, and the story of how this one came to be on our shelves is almost like one of his stories. It has been in our bookshelf ever since I can remember, and has the inscription, “To Frank Hayes, the most genuine of pals, from Tromp van Diggelen.”

Frank Hayes was my father, and Tromp van Diggelen was my godfather, and it is just the kind of book he would give as a gift to a friend, because he loves such stories, and lived them himself. Like Lawrence George Green Tromp van Diggelen loved to go on journeys to out-of-the-way places, drawn by tales of lost cities and buried treasure. In his youth he was a wrestler, and later he was a physical fitness instructor, and my father, originally one of his pupils, became one of his friends.

I’ve been pulling the books off the shelves and rereading them for reasons related to family history. A researcher is trying to find out more about the life of Abraham Morris (1866-1922) the guerrilla fighter against the Germans in Namibia in 1906, and leader of the Bondelswarts Rebellion in 1922, in which he was killed.

Abraham Morris’s mother was Annie Schyer of the Bondelswarts, and the story is that his father was a white trader named Morris. My wife Val’s ancestry is part of the Morris family, who were traders in Namibia, so there is a possibility that Abraham Morris was related to us — but how? There were two James Morrises, cousins, each with a brother William, who could possibly have been his father. So we search books like this looking for tiny clues that could place one or other of the Morrises in the right place at the right time to be Abraham’s father.

This book mentions Abraham Morris only briefly, Thunder in the Blaaurberg gives more detail. But it has plenty of fascinting stories about various places and events.

One of the places of particular interest was the Leliefontein Methodist Mission Station, near Garies in the Northern Cape. It was a place where traders between Namibia and the Cape often called in the 19th century, and many people passed through there.

Other stories that interested me were those of the 1934 floods in Namibia, when the highest rainfall was recorded. It was the highest recorded up till then, and has never been exceeded since. When I lived in Windhoek 40 years ago there were still people around who remembered the floods of 40 years before, and there were signs in improbable places showing the levels that water in the rivers had reached then. Green tells several stories of the floods from people who actually experienced them. He also tells of odd characters and eccentrics, like the one who built a castle in the desert, and those who tried to climb lonely mountains, and, rather more sadly, those who kill baby seals for their fur.

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Axel Wilhelm Eriksson of Hereroland (1846-1901)

Axel Wilhelm Eriksson of Hereroland (1846-1901)Axel Wilhelm Eriksson of Hereroland by Ione Rudner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Axel Wilhelm Eriksson (1846-1901) was a nineteenth-century Swedish hunter and trader in south-west Africa, and this “life and letters” book gives a picture of his life, and what life was like for others there at that time.

All agree that everyone who knew him liked A.W. Eriksson, and he was well-known and widely-respected in what are now Namibia and Angola. That did not stop them from abusing his hospitality, taking advantage of his kind and generous nature, and cheating him on every possible occasion.

It took me nearly three months to read this book, mainly because I interrupted it by reading some of the sources on which it was based.

Axel Wilhelm was born in Vänersborg, Sweden (then spelt Wenersborg) on 24 August 1846, and in 1865, at the age of 18, he travelled to Damaraland (Hereroland), now part of Namibia to help his fellow-Swede, Charles John Andersson, to collect and mount specimens of the animals and birds of southern Africa for Swedish museums. Within 18 months of Eriksson’s arrival Andersson had died and Eriksson buried him in what is now southern Angola.

Eriksson then carried on hunting and trading on his own account, and became the biggest businessman in Damaraland, though he had to face setbacks caused by wars, droughts and, in 1897, the Rinderpest, the cattle plague that killed off most of the cattle in sub-Saharan Aftica.

My interest in him is twofold: having lived in Namibia for a couple of years I am interested in its history, and Axel Wilhelm Eriksson married a relative of my wife, Frances (Fanny) Stewardson, so their children are related. You can see more about that on our blig here: Elusive Namibian families.

The marriage was not a happy one, and ended i n divorce ten years later, when Axel Eriksson found that Fanny had committed adultery with his clerk, Clement Stephen Stonier. In one of his letters he described his marriage as “ten years of hell”. After the divorce, in 1883, he took his three oldest children, Sara (nearly 10), Andrew (6) and Axel (nearly 5) to Sweden to go to school there, and to be cared for by his elder sister Mathilda Olsen, who had herself been deserted by her husband. The youngest daughter, Maud, was brought up by cousins in Cape Town, where she married James Kirby, and later lived in England.

Axel Wilhelm Eriksson was joined in Damaraland by several of his brothers and a number of other Swedes, some of whom also became related by marriage by marrying into the Stewardson family, namely Oskar Theodore Lindholm and Charles Reinhold Carlsson.

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Fred & Mary Greene

One of the things that was missing from our family history was a picture of Val’s great grandparents, Fred and Mary Greene. A few weeks ago, however, Jean Mary Gray sent us one. Jean’s grandmother, Connie Semple, was the half-sister of Frederick Vincent Greene.

Frederick Vincent Greene (1868-1949) and his wife Mary Frances  Crighton (1868-1957)

Frederick Vincent Greene (1868-1949) and his wife Mary Frances Crighton (1868-1957)

Frederick Vincent Greene was the son of Frederick Thomas Green, the Canadian elephant hunter, trader and partisan leader in Damaraland in the mid-19th century. He was born at Ehangero, Damaraland, on 21 November 1868. His mother was Catherine Agnes Ann (Kate)  Stewardson, who was born at Rooibank, near Walvis Bay (now part of Namibia).

After Frederick Thomas Green died in 1876, his widow, Kate Stewardson, married George Robb. With her two husbands she had at least 17 children, of whom only five survived to adulthood. So Fred Greene (Junior) had two sisters, Mary Elizabeth Green (1865-1952) who married Frederick Thomas Abbott, and Alice Isabella Green (1871-1945) who married John Martin Cuthbert O’Grady.

He also had three half-sisters, one from his father’s earlier wife, and two from his mother’s later husband (it gets complicated).

The eldest half-sister was Ada Maria Green (1864-1926), born at Otjimboro, Angola, of Frederick Thomas Green’s second wife, Sara ua Kandendu (his first wife was a Dixon, name unknown). Ada, also known as Ida and Kaera, was the ancestor of Mburumba Kerina, the inventor of the name “Namibia” (“Kerina” was the Herero pronunciation of “Green”).

Frederick Vincent Greene’s other two half sisters were the children of his mother, Kate Stewardson, and her second husband George Robb. They were Agnes Mary Elizabeth Robb (1878-1959) who married Charles Ernest Peers, a Cape Town artist, and Constance Sweetingham (Connie) Robb (1889-1964) who married John Semple, and is the grandmother of Jean Gray who sent us the photo.

Frederick Vincent Greene was 7 years old when his father died, and was brought up by his mother and stepfather, who moved to the Cape Colony about 1881 or 1882, and later moved to Johannesburg. At some point he married Mary Frances Crighton — we don’t know when or where, but their first child, Frederick Alwyn Bartlett Greene, was born in Ladysmith, Natal, in 1890. His father, Fred Vincent, was shown in the Anglican baptism register there was a “mechanical engineer”.

Mary Frances Crighton was the daughter of William John Crighton and Anna Maria MacLeod of Cape Town, where the family were saddlers and leather merchants. On her mother’s side there were also Canadian links, as her grandmother, Mary Kerwick, like Fred Vincent Greene’s father, was born in Quebec. See here for more on the Crighton family.

They had eight children, but they are the generation we know least about.

  • Frederick Alwyn Bartlett Greene (1890-?)
  • Charles Stanhope Greene (1891-?)
  • Arthur Walpole Francis Greene (c1893-c1943)
  • Allan Dudley Greene (c1893-c1942)
  • Edward Lester Greene (1897-c1950)
  • Frank Henry Greene (c1899-?)
  • Royden Braithwaite Greene (1905-1971)
  • Gladys Winifred Greene (1907-1997)

Val’s grandfather was Allan Dudley Greene, but he died before she was born, and when her father was a prisoner-of-war in Italy. He died of TB, but Val’s grandmother Emma le Sueur couldn’t remember when it was. She was good at remembering what pills they took and what diseases they died of, but was rather vague about dates and places. But she thought he had died in the King George V Hospital in Sydenham, Durban. So we went there and asked at the reception if they could find the record of someone who had been a patient 30 years before. They found him in the index, and said that because it was so long ago, his admission card would be in the basement. It took them all of 10 minutes to find it. So we got his date of death. We were delighted, because we had just spent the morning hunting through the records of the Master of the Supreme Court in Pietermaritzburg (for which I had to get special permission from the magistrate, being banned at the time) and had found no death notice or any other estate files for him. And we still don’t know when or where he was born.

The family surname was Green and remained so until the First World War. The eldest son, Frederick Alwyn Bartlett Green, changed his name to Greene when he enlisted in the army, and someone said it was because he had had a fight with his father. But by the end of the war all the sons were using the Greene spelling, and the father was too.

Some members of the family refer to the eldest son as Fred Skelm, because there are all kinds of rumours about him. He was arrested in South West Africa in the 1930s for illegal diamond prospecting in the Kaokoveld, and banged up in Outjo for a while. He claimed that he was heir to the land on which he was prospecting because it had belonged to his grandfather Frederick Thomas Green. His story was perhaps not as far-fetched as it may have seemed to the magistrate at the time, because his aunt Ada (Kaera) had sued the South West Africa Company for a farm that the German colonial government had given to the Company, which she maintained that the Herero chief, Samuel Maharero, had given to her father for her. She won her case too, and the deed, signed by the Herero chiefs’ council, may perhaps be the first written title deed in Namibia.

Fred Skelm seems to have married several times, and may or may not have had children by some of his wives, One story was that he worked on a mine somewhere in America, murdered someone, and escaped on a railway handcranked inspection truck. Another said he was run over by a bus in Clairwood, Durban, and yet another that it was in London.

The second son, Charles Stanhope Green was baptised in Johannesburg in 1892 when he was a year old, but we don’t know where he was born. He disappears after that. Perhaps he died young.

Arthur Walpole Francis Greene, the third (or possibly fourth) son was married in 1915 to Margaret McLaren, who left him 2 days later. He was said to have been drowned when the ship he was travelling on was torpedoed in WWII. Edward Lester Greene had a son Lester Frederick, who went farming in Zimbabwe. Frank Henry Greene went overseas as a soldier in World War I, but while in England was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for stealing articles from a house. He apparently committed suicide at about the age of 25.

Roydon Brathwaite Green changed all three of his names, becoming Royden Braithwaite Greene. He was born in Johannesburg and lived in Port Elizabeth.

The youngest child of Fred and Mary Green was Gladys Winifred Greene, who married twice. We found that she was living in Ixopo, and Val went to visit we with her father, who was thus meeting his aunt for the first time. She was the one who first told us about the Namibian connection, which enabled us to find Fred Green the elephant hunter in the history books, though several of them erroneously referred to him as Frederick Joseph Green instead of Frederick Thomas Green. Later we met Gladys’s daughter Dion Stewart, who lived in Empangeni when we lived in Melmoth, and she was the first one who told us about the family royal legend, which turned out to be false, but did put us on the track of the real Green family history.

So we were very glad to have the photo, which is the only one we have seen of Fred and Mary Greene.

Adventure in South West Africa 1894-98

Adventure in South West Africa 1894-1898Adventure in South West Africa 1894-1898 by Eberhard Rosenblad

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A few weeks ago I read and reviewed Memories of several years in south-western Africa by Thure Gustav Een. Captain Een, a Swede, described his life and journeys in central and northern Namibia in the 1860s and 1870s, in partnership with a Swedish trader, Axel Wilhelm Eriksson.

Rosenblad’s book is very similar, but it is set in a period 30 years later. He too was a partner of A.W. Eriksson, and covered much the same ground as Een did.

The main difference is that in Een’s time the country was divided into a number of small states that were sometimes at war with each other. In Rosenblad’s time, it was the German colony of South West Africa. It is interesting, therefore, to read descriptions of the same country by two writers a generation apart.

Quite a lot of the difference in the writing reflects the New Imperialism that swept the world in the 1880s, and led to the Scramble for Africa by the European powers. Germany was a bit late in the Scramble, and got a largely desert country. One of the effects of the New Imperialism was that it gave Europeans in Africa an enormous sense of their own superiority to the native Africans, and of the importance of showing the natives that the white man was the Boss. Even though Sweden was not an imperial power, Rosenblad’s writing reflects this sense of European superiority.

Een was aware of cultural differences, and often compared local cultures unfavourably with his own Swedish culture, but he described them in some detail, and assumed that his readers would be interested in these descriptions. Rosenblad tends to dismiss them as not worth describing, except when he is making a point about the superiority of his own culture. He quite often describes the way of disciplining his own employees, with a sjambok, and giving them a beating. He does not entirely lack compassion, however, and expresses pity for a tribe that resisted German rule and were taken as prisoners of war, but it is pity from a position of superiority, as one might pity an ill-treated animal.

Both Een and Rosenblad admired A.W. Eriksson, and recognised him as a remarkably kind and generous man. But when Een was there, Eriksson was a young man, who had started as an assistant to the Anglo-Swedish trader and explorer C.J. Andersson. Thirty years later he was older and more experienced, and clearly had a good reputation with just about everyone.

Rosenblad’s book is less satisfactory than Een’s in other ways too. Not only does he give less details about the different cultures, but also about the individuals he met. Een gives character sketches of people, and describes something of their lives. Rosenblad often does not even mention their names.

At one point he describes how two German soldiers at Heigamkab discoverered a portmanteau with clothes, books and letters in the Namib desert. The papers revealed that the owner was a Damara (Herero), who had gone to the Cape Colony and studied at a mission institution. He had apparently returned by sea, and decided to walk across the desert rather than waiting for wheeled transport, and then got lost. This supposition was verified when Rosenblad’s party reached the Cape, and he writes,

He had probably lost his way in the darkness and fog. He must have drifted around for some days, suffering all the agonies of hunger and thirst, and then must have lain down to rest expecting the end. So much time had already elapsed when the soldiers found the portmanteau, that it was no use starting a search. Perhaps one day his skeleton will emerge from the treacherous drift-sand and grin at the passerby, but then the memory of this event will already have faded long ago.

But it might not have faded quite so much if Rosenblad (or his editor) had bothered to record his name.

The translators of the book, Jalmar and Ione Rudner, have gone to some trouble to give more information about people who are named in the text, but there is obviously nothing they can do if the names are not mentioned.

One of the reasons we read the book was because of our interest in family history, but apart from A.W. Eriksson himself (a relative by marriage), the lack of names makes the book of little use in that respect. It consists, for the most part, of hunters’ and travellers’ tales, such as are told by hunters around campfires in the evenings. That was their entertainment before satellite TV appeared, but for us the lack of historical detail made them less interesting.

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